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DALLAS — Jarrod Uthoff has been a Dallas Maverick for less than two weeks, but the Cedar Rapids native already has made quite an impression on his new organization.
During a recent road trip to Toronto, Mavs head coach Rick Carlisle, the 2002 NBA Coach of the Year with Detroit who led Dallas to the 2011 NBA championship, spotted Uthoff, 23, at a convenience store buying a loaf of bread, presumably wheat, and lunch meat.
“I said hey, you’re on NBA per diem now, you can splurge a little bit,” Carlisle said. “I pulled my credit card out. I offered to pay for his bread and deli meat. It turned out they had already swiped his card.”
Uthoff made his debut March 10 against Brooklyn, becoming the second Cedar Rapids native and first Metro prep to play in a regular-season NBA game. Jon Koncak, who was born in Cedar Rapids in 1963 but grew up in Kansas City and played collegiately at SMU, spent 12 seasons in the NBA (1985-1996).
Uthoff signed his first 10-day contract March 9. Currently the only former University of Iowa player in the NBA, the Cedar Rapids Jefferson graduate inked his second 10-day deal March 18. At the end of this current contract, if the Mavs want to keep him, they must sign him for the remainder of the season.
Uthoff thinks if he can keep performing well, like he’s done in practice and in two games, he will remain in Dallas.
“Do the right thing, that’s what I do,” Uthoff said. “I come in and make shots. I defend, I play hard. That’s what every team needs.”
However, Uthoff hasn’t only impressed Carlisle with what the veteran head coach termed his “road food situation,” he’s also earned Carlisle’s esteem for what he brings to practice as a grinder, much like Carlisle was during his six seasons as a player when he was part of an NBA championship team in 1986 with Boston.
“Look, this is the life of a minor league guy that’s working to make it,” Carlisle said. “You got to be resourceful, you got to be thrifty.
“Look, it’s a lot of work getting a call-up in the NBA. Then getting a second 10-day contract is a high compliment to him. And the fact that he got it without really (playing), tells you that he’s done some good things here.”
Along with fellow Big Ten products Yogi Ferrell (Indiana) and AJ Hammons, Dallas’ 2016 second-round pick from Purdue, Uthoff is one of three rookies in Dallas. But one thing that has been different for Uthoff compared to many NBA newcomers is he hasn’t endured any rookie rites of passage, meaning no lugging around a pink backpack to announce his rookie status to the world, no buying coffee and/or pastries for his teammates before practice or shoot-arounds.
After going undrafted last summer, Uthoff played summer league for Sacramento and spent part of the preseason with Toronto. His next stop was the NBA D-League, where he played for Raptors 905 and Fort Wayne before being signed by the Mavs. Uthoff feels his time with the Kings and Raptors, plus the regular minutes he received in the D-League, helped prepare him for what he would see in the NBA.
“I definitely have been prepared for it,” he said. “Great experience so far, just understanding the NBA system. It’s been a growing year and I’ve learned a lot.”
He said he wasn’t nervous when he hit the hardwood at American Airlines Center earlier this month for his NBA debut against the Nets.
“I belong in the NBA, so that’s how I look at it,” Uthoff said.
And since Carlisle’s opinion on personnel matters carries considerable weight in the Mavs organization, the fact Uthoff continues to impress him bodes well for Uthoff remaining in Dallas at least for the balance of the season.
“He’s a good prospect,” Carlisle said. “He’s deceptively tall and long, he shoots the ball very well. Somehow or other, he has very good shot blocking numbers for a guy that’s not a center. He’s just got a good sense for timing. He uses his length well.”